Originally from Vietnam Khoa joined the hospitality industry due to his love of working with people and the opportunity to be employed in a global industry with international career prospects.
He was attracted to QRC due to its reputation for excellence.
Khoa undertook his 9 month fully paid internship as a member of the Food and Beverage team at Copthorne Hotel & Apartments.
He continued to work part time with the hotel during his final 2 terms at college and walked straight into a supervisor’s position upon graduating with his management diploma in 2012. 4 months later he was promoted to the Duty Managers role.
After holding Duty Manager positions in hotels in both NZ and Vietnam Khoa is currently based in the world-renowned Marlborough Sounds working as the Front Office Manager at the Portage Hotel where he leads the front office operations however, although he is based in Marlborough Sounds he is currently seconded to THC’s Nugget point and Impressed.
His words of wisdom:
“This career requires a lot of hard work, especially in the first 3-5 years and there will certainly be times when you want to throw in the towel. I say when you get into this mood think back, remember why you chose this path and keep going with your eye on the prize. The doors of opportunity are marked push and if you put your heart into this job, and you will eventually reap the rewards.”
I caught up with him while he was in town to learn more about his fascinating journey since leaving QRC.
Read more below…
On the Couch with Lê Ngọc Đăng Khoa
Why did you choose to follow a career in tourism/hospitality?
I chose hospitality because I love working with groups of people. Plus, the skills you learn are transferable so I can easily work around the world.
Why did you choose QRC?
I chose QRC because of the reputation it has in the NZ tourism industry for excellence.
Where did you undertake your internship? (job/position)
I was working as F&B attendant at Copthorne Hotel & Apartment Lakeview Queenstown for 9 months.
What was the biggest “take away” from your internship experience?
It would have to be understanding the importance of gaining practical experience to back up the management theory. I also learnt the importance of building networks and the importance of developing and growing your own personal brand. Because of my internship I secured a job even before graduating from QRC.
Tell me about your journey since leaving QRC.
After QRC, I continued working for Copthorne as a F&B Supervisor. I then got promoted to Duty Manager after 4 months. After gaining NZ Permanent Residency status I returned to my home country of Vietnam where I took on a Duty Managers roll at Novotel Ho Chi Minh City.
I came back to NZ in 2020 and was recruited into my current role by NZ owned THC Group, as Front Office / Operations Manager, at their Portage Hotel located in the iconic Marlborough Sounds.
The THC group provides a broad range of investment support, development and management services for hospitality brands, managers and investors and owns / manages 5 properties throughout New Zealand plus Queenstown based Impressed which offers commercial laundry & housekeeping services
I worked for most of the season at the Portage which was cut short due to a large storm which hit the region. I was then transferred to be a part of the opening team for a new THC Group property, the 88 room Cosa Hotel, located in the heart of central Christchurch. My main responsibility was to train the new Front Office / Reception team.
I was then transferred down to Queenstown to work in operations at THC’s boutique, luxury hotel, Nugget Point here in Queenstown.
In addition to assisting with daily operations I am also overseeing the laundry operations of Impressed who provide linen and housekeeping services to Hotels, Motels, and Holiday Houses, with a focus on quality product & service.
Tell me more about your position at the Portage Hotel.
The Portage is a strata hotel whereby we manage the property on behalf of investors who own individual units. We offer several accommodation options including the premium Tui and Keru Suites, the two-room elevated Korimako Suites, and the cosy Weka Rooms.
I’m the hotels Front Office Manager but I am also acting Operations Manager.
What are your main responsibilities?
There are a lot of responsibilities, but essentially my role is to make sure that the hotel and staff are operate smoothly throughout the day.
The property operates on a seasonal basis. During the peak summer season, I manage around 20 staff but during the winter we let most staff go and the property is managed by a smaller team including myself, the General Manager and other department heads
My role includes:
- Managing and training the concierge, night auditor and team of receptionists.
- Ensuring the front desk provides a professional and friendly service for customers.
- Dealing with customers, including handling complaints when they come to the desk.
- Troubleshooting emergencies.
- Overseeing the running of the Food and Beverage and Housekeeping departments.
- Scheduling staff rota.
In Queenstown things are relatively quite which gives me time to prepare and plan for the reopening of the Portage hotel for the upcoming summer season.
Initially I am focusing on the staffing requirements for each of the hotels operational departments, including recruitment strategy and training plans. In terms of Food and Beverage I am starting to revise the menu plans remotely with the Executive Chef who has also stayed on at the property during the slow winter period. He will need another 2 chefs to support him in the operations of the kitchen, so I need to get onto that too.
How did your time at QRC help prepare you for your current job?
At that time, all my teachers were very enthusiastic, and they all had solid hospitality experience. In fact, a number were still working in the industry and teaching us part time. As such I was learning current best practice from industry professionals. In addition, the 9 month fully paid internship helped me gain a lot of valuable hands-on experience.
What do you enjoy the most about your current position?
When I got the role I was overwhelmed by everything at first, but now things have settled down the thing that interests me the most at is the managing and training team members.
I have been heavily involved in training at the past three THC hotels. Each hotel has its own unique character and personality, but the basic systems are the same. This is one of the advantages of working for a hotel chain. It is relatively easy to transfer between properties.
I like training as I can help people develop their own individual skills to reach their full potential while at the same time putting my own thumbprint on their development.
What’s it like living in the Marlborough Sounds?
We are located in Portage Bay, hence the name of the property. Surrounded by a rustic landscape of native bush, with an abundance of unique wildlife it is truly a peaceful environment.
I love walking along the beach and seeing dolphins, rays, seals, and other wildlife that visit the bay. It’s simply amazing to be living and working in such a special place.
It is a seasonal property. During peak season we are very busy welcoming 20+ guests a day while in low season (winter) we are only open 4 days per week receiving 2 -3 guests per day. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but we are a small team who need to be multiskilled and we are always kept busy.
The only downside is that it is remote about 1 ½ hours’ drive to Picton and the closest supermarket. However, I live on site and food and accommodation are a part of my package, so I don’t have a big need to head into town except to occasionally pick up things for the hotel or on personal business.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to continue to work my way up the chain and ultimately become a General Manager.
What skills and attitude do you need to be a good manager?
I believe you need to have excellent people management skills if you want to be an effective manager. Your staff are the backbone of the business. A good hotel is where everyone knows the companies’ goals and are constantly working towards them. No matter your management style, even if you are strict and firm you need to be fair with everyone. Certainly, reprimand them if they make a mistake but also make sure to compliment them for a job well done.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?
I got some very valuable career advice from my mentor, who used to be my Front Office Manager, and now my General Manager at the Portage Hotel. He told me if you ultimately want to become a General Manager you need to get as much experience you can in different kinds of hotels. The more experience you have the more valuable you are.
Any words of wisdom to young people starting on their career?
This career requires a lot of hard work, especially in the first 3-5 years and there will certainly be times when you want to throw in the towel. I say when you get into this mood think back, remember why you chose this path and keep going with your eye on the prize. The doors of opportunity are marked push and if you put your heart into this job, and you will eventually reap the rewards.
Also, the more you work and the more experience you get gives you a wider view of the opportunities available in the industry.